Boulder-based venture capitalist Megan Bent, who has backed such buzzy startups as Usual Wines and Jennifer Garner’s Once Upon a Farm baby food, made a commitment when she launched Harbinger Ventures in 2016 to only back companies that have at least one female founder, and whaddaya know, it isn’t as challenging as some folks would have you believe. “There are no pipeline challenges at all,” Bent says. She has been emphatic about not creating an alternate system of “women funding women”—her first hire was a man—but rather pursuing diversity of experience. As a result, when it comes to gender balance across everything from Harbinger’s backers to the boards of its portfolio companies, “we’re pretty equitably split.” Bent made two other foundational decisions in establishing Harbinger that are now paying off: making focus and attention her firm’s superpower, investing in only four or five companies per fund at a time when every other VC seems to be doing more deals, and devising a novel structure whereby the founders she invests in co-own a piece of the overall fund. This aligns their interests, inspires them to refer other founders to Harbinger, and creates a next generation of investors. The businesses Bent has backed across three investment funds (about $40 million under management), which started with total sales of $22 million, have grown to $95 million this year.
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